trump kim hanoi summit SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

How to Judge the Hanoi Summit

Behind the pomp and ceremony of US President Donald Trump's latest summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, it may be difficult to discern what, if anything, has been accomplished. But If what happens in Hanoi is judged according to the criteria of the past, success may be mistaken for failure.

LOS ANGELES – US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are now meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, for their second summit. In assessing the outcome, optimists and pessimists alike should focus on three criteria: irreversible progress toward a formal peace settlement, denuclearization, and the potential transformation of the North Korean regime.

In retrospect, if the unsuccessful diplomacy of the past 25 years has taught us anything, it is that denuclearization will not happen without first ending the hostility between the United States and North Korea. A policy of pressure and deterrence without political engagement has been shown to breed distrust and repeated defection by North Korea from agreements.

Fortunately, Trump and Kim have both signaled a willingness to move toward a more peaceful US-North Korean relationship, and there were reports before the Hanoi summit suggesting that Trump would offer Kim a formal declaration to end the Korean War. But full normalization will take time. After US National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger’s secret trip to Beijing in 1971, it took another eight years of diplomacy for the US to normalize its hostile relationship with China, with President Jimmy Carter granting the People’s Republic full diplomatic recognition in 1979.

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